Friday, February 17, 2017

A Facetious Carnival Barker

(Informed by a conversation with the owner of this pipe)

Among famous fictional carnival barkers of the 20th century are the unforgettable Gabby Gilfoil played by W.C. Fields,

W. C. Fields as carnival sideshow barker Gabby Gilfoil in a scene from the 1927 Paramount Pictures film Two Flaming Youths.

in the 1927 Paramount Pictures comedy silent film Two Flaming Youths,

 and Billy Bigelow

 John Raitt as Billy Bigelow with Jan Clayton in 1945 original Broadway production of Carousel

the protagonist of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic stage musical Carousel

Original Broadway posters (1945)

Bigelow was an Americanized version of Liliom, the protagonist of Hungarian author Ferenc Molnár's non-musical play Liliom in 1909. 

Liliom original cast, Hungary, 1909

Carnivals have been around for centuries and were often the scene of excessive consumption of alcohol, abusive language and occasional degrading acts, a temporary but much needed release from the constraints of societal rules and norms. 

Time to let off the steam before Lent arrives with all its proscriptions and repentence...

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Pieter Brueghel l'Ancien (1559)

Just imagine a carnival hawker sets up his magical box in a carnival. He is dressed befitting his calling. By his side, sits the obligatory monkey to attract the crowds and his apprentice, possibly his son, is checking out the magical hat. 

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

On the other side of the box customers are lined up, simple country folk, who paid good money to have a chance to peek into the box and be wowed by its mysterious content.  

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

What could possibly be behind this door? roll the drums...

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection
The reveal shows... 

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

Nothing more than a simple county bumpkin taking his obligatory constitutional.

The olden day carvers undoubtedly had a great sense of humor in executing their craft. Whether this pipe was a commission or just the whim of the carver is just conjecture...

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

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